Relationships come in all sorts of complex styles and configurations from the long, romantic partnership to the short, passionate one-night stand. Now if there is one group that knows a thing or two about complexities, it’s the Queer* (LGBTIQAP*) community. The Queers have been at the forefront of exploring not just sexuality, but the very nature of relationships. Trust, dialogue and spice in the bedroom are some of the best queer tips I’ve picked up (for more, I’d highly recommend Hardy and Easton’s The Ethical Slut).
If we are going to start anywhere with relationships, then we have to be honest, both with others and ourselves. Almost every queer person at some point in their life has had to grapple with themselves, with their identity and their attractions. The first step to coming out is acceptance, loving yourself before you can begin to truly love others. And there is no reason why this does not extend to everyone. We all have different wants and needs and it is important to acknowledge these. As most of us are still curious, young adults we may be more interested in casual fun than intense, romantic relationships. Some people who do want relationships want somebody to look after them, whereas others see a relationship as more of an equal partnership. Ultimately it is up to you what you want, but it is crucial that you maintain honesty to have a healthy relationship.
On a practical level being honest in a relationship means engaging in the most excruciatingly difficult act of all: communicating. If the stereotype exists of lesbians talking about their feelings too much or of the gays congregating to gossip, it’s because active communication works. Too often we bottle up our feelings and won’t actually voice to our partners our problems. Of course confronting these problems requires tact and it is best to focus on particular behaviours of your partner that you don’t like, and actively talk about how it makes you feel. There is a big difference between “I feel you spend more time on your friends than with me, and it makes me feel unwanted” compared to “YOU spend more time with your friends than me”. The latter is an attack and makes a judgement about your partner that is actually just your subjective opinion.
A deep relationship requires honest, open communication if it is going to overcome inevitable obstacles. These two general principles, honesty and communication, can be practiced in all our relationships, from friends, to family, to loved ones. Too often we forget that our relationships with friends and family require just as much tender loving care as our romantic and sexual relationships.
One final piece of advice from a queer to you on relationships is to keep things interesting is in the bedroom. Too often we get caught up in the idea that sex and intimacy are the same thing, yet there are a whole host of ways in which you can deepen your connections with a partner that don’t involve sex. After all not all gay guys have anal, lesbians are still wondering where the hell this ‘scissoring’ nonsense came from, and our queer* community includes an A for asexuality, or those who do not have strong desire for sex. Exploring each other’s bodies through touch, finding what pleasure and sensations one can elicit without having sex outright; these can go a long way in improving connections and intimacy with a partner. Of course this kind of exploration can run the other way towards ‘kinkier’ explorations too. It may not be for everyone, but mixing things up in the bedroom can both make relationships more exciting and more intimate. These ideas will by no means fix relationships or guarantee their success, but hopefully they will make for a gay old time whilst you try.